The Uncertainty Mindset 2019-2020

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#13: Revelation and discovery

vaughn2nd January 2021 at 3:27pm

This issue is about how we learn about uncertainty as individuals, and where that uncertainty is located.

Uncertainty can be involuntary or voluntary—it can either be revealed to you against your will or you can actively search for and discover it. Uncertainty can also be internal or external—it can either be about your individual sense of self or about how well that sense of self fits with your environment.

This produces four types of personal uncertainty:

  1. Involuntary internal uncertainty: Unwilling revelation of the awful truth. When someone or something shows you that you’re deluding yourself about what you’re good at and why you exist.
  2. Voluntary internal uncertainty: Actively seeking self-knowledge. When you choose to engage in the uncomfortable process of interrogating what you’re good at and why you exist.
  3. Involuntary external uncertainty: Unwilling revelation of environmental change. When your current environment changes in a way that makes it clear that what you were good at before is now invalid.
  4. Voluntary external uncertainty: Actively seeking unfamiliar environments. When you intentionally put yourself into unfamiliar situations to investigate whether they are more personally fruitful and fulfilling.

Breaking up uncertainty like this offers a pair of insights and maybe-principles:

  1. If exposed to involuntary uncertainty, it’s probably better to take some action than to avoid it.
  2. Before voluntarily pursuing uncertainty, create mechanisms to pull you back before you go over the edge.

Uncertainty will always be uncomfortable and expensive—but it would be delusional to pretend it doesn't exist. Choosing to engage in voluntary uncertainty offers the chance to confront it on your own terms—at a level you can manage, at a moment that is more likely to be optimal, and when you have the resources to absorb the cost—and (possibly) to enter a state of productive internal and external exploration. Such a strategy is one aspect of the uncertainty mindset and is the foundation for developing a self-therapeutic practice of productive discomfort.

You can find it here: #13: Revelation and discovery